Monday, 30 March 2009

Go for it Archbishop

We're still waiting to see who the new Archbishop of Westminster will be. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in New York, they're preparing to welcome their new Archbishop, Timothy Dolan. He has been Archbishop of Milawaukee up to now and I came across a recording of his homily when he was installed there in 2002. Going by this sermon, they're in for some good strong stuff in the Big Apple. I listened to the whole thing straight through, and I recommend that to you too - it's about 20 minutes. It gives a flavour of the Church in America at its confident, faith-filled best. You can catch it here. The picture is of St Patrick's Cathedral, one of my favourite - or should that be favorite - Catholic churches.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Priests and Pubs

Two pub lunches this week - one a bit posh down in Penarth with my sister on Tuesday, and then down the local here with a friend for fish 'n' chips today. Right through the meal today, where I had my collar on, people on the next table stared every few minutes. Almost put me off my haddock (but not quite!). Yes - it's a Catholic priest in a pub, not exactly earth-shattering news, I would have thought. Maybe they were from a denomination more suspicious of alcohol. Perhaps they were admiring the cut of my fleece. As a priest, you get used to being looked at in our secular society. But give it a rest after the first ten stares! What do you think, worthy readers - do priest and pubs go together?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pardon and Peace - Part 2

Fr James and I helped with 2 sessions of Confessions at Corpus Christi School this week. It's interesting to trace the youngsters' development as shown when they come along. Today we had Year 9 (13-14), and I felt that the boys were more straightforward, just telling it as it is, the girls a little more, er, beating around the bush. It didn't help that it was a non-uniform day, and so they were all showing off their super-cool outfits (boys and girls that is - I'm getting into deep waters here!) Funny thing is that I've always found that some of the most sincere confessions come from the toughest lads. Take away the audience of their mates, and they are often some of the most heartfelt encounters I've had in this beautiful sacrament. You gain a deep insight into their world, a world so often overshadowed by family and other problems, and they often emerge as being far more full of potential than is realized, in both senses of that word.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Pardon and Peace

Good Reconciliation Service in St Paul's this evening. Some said Monday is not a good day - but whatever day you choose for these kind of things, it won't suit everybody. More of a concern is the question whether this sacrament suits some people at any time... Allowing for the fact that some parishioners go to other parishes for Confession or Reconciliation, but that some from other parishes also come to us - I wonder what proportion of parishioners ever actually celebrate this sacrament? I suspect that the confidentiality that surrounds it actually provides a reason - or should that be excuse - to avoid talking about it at all. When priests talk about the huge drop in people coming, they usually get round to talking about a loss of the sense of sin, which in turn is connected to a loss of the sense of God.

Now this would be a good subject for some of you out there to chip in and offer your comments here. Go on - what's happened to Confession?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Archbishop Peter on "Today"

Someone asked if I caught Archbishop Peter on the radio this morning, talking about the Pope's comments on condoms and other things. If you missed it too, catch it here - our bishop doing what he does so well with the media.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

St Joseph's Day

I like this icon of St Joseph, showing him as rather younger than is often the case. The tradition of an older Joseph stems from the presumption that he was dead by the time of the marriage at Cana, when he is not mentioned. Joseph is patron of the dying, of workers, and of many countries such as Canada. He is also Guardian of the Church, as he was Guardian of Jesus.

He reminds me too of all those people who work away in the background, and whom we so easily take for granted. But without them things would ground to a halt. Have a thought for all those present day Josephs...

Meanwhile, this link will take you to the huge shrine of St Joseph in Montreal, Canada, founded by Blessed Brother Andre The picture is of the interior of the main basilica.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Day trip to Swansea

Beautiful weather we are having at the moment...

I was fortunate yesterday to be in Swansea for a few hours. After my meeting, another priest and I parked in the new marina area of the city and got a bite to eat at Frankie & Benny's. Am I alone in thinking that although, like Cardiff, there are areas very obviously set aside by the planners for eating and "fun", there are whole stretches of new development which seem to be just flashy office blocks and parking. However much "street furniture" they put in, these areas always seem to end up rather cold and forbidding, giving you the feeling that in a few years they will be even more depressing than they are now. We walked among the shiny new architecture, which I'm sure looks interesting on paper, but in the flesh, so to speak, I find it all rather de-humanising.

However, I like Swansea, and the way that the sea there is closer to the centre than here in Cardiff. One of the problems with the Bay here is that it's just too far for people to walk from town. What happened to the plans for some kind of tram link?

Friday, 13 March 2009

Episcopal comings and goings

Our two celebrations of Confirmation this week went very well. The organization was good, the youngsters were well prepared and did well on the night, music was great etc - and Archbishop was happy! We're very blessed with our team of catechists. Many thanks to all concerned...

Talking of archbishops - much chatter around this week that the new Archbishop of Westminster will be announced soon. Latest name being bandied about is Bishop Bernard Longley, an auxiliary already at Westminster. Just in case he is the one, can I stake my claim that I spent 5 days with him in 1989! At that time he was secretary to the Ecumenical Commission of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Nice chap... I attended an international ecumenical conference and he was in our group of British reps. So I wouldn't say he was a personal friend exactly - as I haven't spoken to him for 20 years! - but you never know...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Prayer problem

Nice problem this evening - more people than expected turned up to my first Lenten talk on "Aspects of Prayer". All our previous series have been in the sacristy at St B's. It takes about 14 or 15 snugly, but we were 20+ this evening, and so had to decamp to the church. Not such a good environment because of seating, scale of building etc. However, when we came to the Way of the Cross, we had the benefit of the large Crucifix above the altar as a focus.

We tried to look at some of the fundamentals of prayer this evening, before we get on to kinds of prayer, Biblical prayer etc. Everyone put their hand up when I asked who didn't pray enough or pray well enough... as expected. There were some moved faces as we remembered that it's not a competition, and we don't get a score out of 10 for prayer. I suggested that it's strange that we don't talk much about prayer, considering that we would all agree that it's important. I am convinced that in fact there's a tremendous lot of prayer goes on, and we are blessed in our churches with many deeply spiritual folks.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Transfiguration according to Bellini

I was preparing for our Sunday Masses and thinking what a wonderful moment the Transfiguration was - a gift for artists. I particularly like Giovanni Bellini's version. It's not a "spectacular" take on what was a spectacular moment. Rather it wins me over with its typical warm Venetian colours, and the way the serene figures of Jesus, Moses and Elijah contrast with the astonished apostles... There's a hint of a climb at the bottom with the top of some kind of slope, but this is a very gentle, north Italian mountain that Jesus led his apostles up. . . I saw the original in Naples back in the 70s when I was in seminary in Rome.
P.S. Ron, who I anointed yesterday (see previous post) died early this morning. Eternal rest grant to him, Lord.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Great and small

One of those mornings... when you're trying to do something and the door/phone bell keeps ringing. When you're a priest you have a list of things you have to do, as in lots of "jobs". But then there are also the unpredictables. A lot of them are what I call the "things-they-didn't-tell-you about-in-seminary" bits. This morning they came to service the alarms in St B's church, hall and presbytery. Then the Council came to check St B's Hall for its continuing use as a Polling Station. About 30 questions to tick off on their list. It took two people of course, one to take a photo. The usual run of phone calls about baptisms, marriages and funerals, emails etc. Someone wanted to use the duplicator, someone else wanted to discuss yesterday evening's meeting - and so on... It's the host of little things that I suspect people don't think about with priests. While you might be thinking "Well someone else could be doing those things" - the whole point is you don't know that most of them are going to happen.

All the time I was waiting to get across the road to the Iorwerth Jones Centre, where I was wanting to visit and anoint a very sick parishioner. I got there eventually at about 4pm - just as his daughter was arriving to visit - so there was a silver lining... The Iorwerth Jones used to be a council care home until a few months ago. Now it's a part of Whitchurch Hospital, as it were, and they have moved out many of the Alzheimers patients there. And so we celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick, just the three of us. As always, it was very moving. A gentle smile flashed across Ron's face a few times, and I always try to say a prayer for the family too. He was curled up in a kind of foetal position, and I was reminded of my mother looking very similar eight years ago. The point is in priesthood that in a few short moments you can swing from the terribly ordinary and mundane things to the profoundly un-everyday - and back again.
This evening I was at Christ the King, to concelebrate with Fr Owen Hardwicke a Mass marking CAFOD's Family Fast Day. Most of the 3 Churches United for Justice and Peace Group were there, and some others. They've been going now over a year, and have done very well. Finally - a relaxed pint at one of the locals.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Save our arcades

I was in town yesterday, calling in at the CTS to order palms and paschal candles for St B and St P. Serious question of which wax motif to have?!! Then I went round to the Hayes to see how the new developments - St David's 2 etc - are progressing. There are loads of apartments, ("luxury", of course) on top of the new shop units, but then I saw in the Echo in a cafe nearby that the proposed 32 storey block near the station is now on ice. Who's living in all these, er, luxury apartments all over the place?
Anyway I was sad to find that many units in the Morgan Arcade are empty, and it had quite a sad feel to it, not at all like it is in this picture. As a Cardiffian I'm very fond of the arcades, and I hope they don't suffer, squeezed between development and credit crunch. The new library looks interesting. I was never very keen on the "old new" library in Bridge Street - I hope this one is going to be better. It's opening soon...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Election Day in Cardiff

Beautiful ceremony this afternoon at St David's Cathedral in town - the "Rite of Election". This is when adults who are becoming Catholics at Easter make their final decision to go ahead, and have that decision accepted by the Bishop. I went along with Simon and Jo, a married couple from from St Brigid's, their sponsor and some of their relations. It's wonderful to see, I suppose, about 60-80 people going up to make their commitment. Then they all meet Archbishop Peter personally for a few moments. Incidentally, I must say I felt proud also that our 3 Churches supplied almost half of the small choir which led the music beautifully.

It's great to witness these occasions. The candidates come to realize a little of the true nature of the Catholic Church, as they see all these other folks like them, and then remember that similar services are being held today all around the world. They always find it moving - and so do I.